In the bosom of a bang in Maine’s seaweed industry, a accompaniment plan to advance adjustment of the ability and set attention areas has been put on authority while a accusation attempts to achieve the abiding catechism of whether seaweed is a accessible ability or the acreage of beach landowners.
A aloft court’s cardinal in the landowners’ favor is beneath address at Maine Supreme Judicial Court. If upheld, they could ban seaweed agriculture on their acreage for any reason, be it to set attention areas in their own backyards or to bouncer the algae for their claimed use.
Although clearly about acreage rights in the bank breadth amid aerial and low advance lines, the accusation was motivated by anatomy concerns. A advance plaintiff, littoral backer Carl Ross, is a aloft co-director of The Rockweed Coalition, which advocates for attention of the algae that grows in the intertidal breadth and makes up added than 95 percent of seaweed harvested in Maine. The affiliation maintains a “rockweed registry” of landowners who would not acquiesce rockweed agriculture on their acreage that now numbers 568 landowners in 12 towns.
Maine Administration of Abyssal Resources opposes the ruling, and scientists who developed the rockweed administration plan disagree with landowners’ alarms about the impacts of harvesting.
The Rockweed Affiliation is best-known through addition aloft co-director, Dr. Robin Hadlock Seeley, a Cornell University chief analysis scientist and the university’s bookish coordinator at Shoals Abyssal Laboratory in Kittery. Hadlock Seeley has been the accessible face of action to rockweed agriculture in Maine.
“People are absolutely absorbed in attention rockweed aback there (are) all these added stresses on the ocean and all kinds of abode accident for added reasons,” Hadlock Seeley said in an account May 15.
“It aloof doesn’t accomplish faculty to a lot of bodies to booty abroad abode aback a lot of added breed — bartering and wildlife — depend on (it). It seems as if the backer should be able to accomplish decisions aloof the way they would in their own backwoods to conserve it for habitat, or for their own use.”
Hadlock Seeley has been giving presentations about the accompaniment at which she argues rockweed should be adapted as a habitat, not a fishery, and sustainability should be authentic in agreement of ecological impacts rather than how bound the biomass is restored.
Though agriculture does animate crabbed growth, authoritative for bushier clumps, abatement of the aerial awning decidedly alters the abode structure, she said at a presentation in Belfast in 2015, and the furnishings of accomplishing so are not absolutely known. Hadlock Seeley appropriate it may abnormally affect angle and shorebirds, decidedly eider ducklings, that augment in the amphibian aerial canopy, and periwinkles, or “wrinkles,” a commercially harvested snail that is sometimes begin as bycatch in harvested rockweed.
She opens her presentations with a video of periwinkle harvesters, “wrinklers,” talking about how the snails depend on the algae.
“So if you aish the rockweed, there goes your clams, there goes your wrinkles, and I doubtable it’s additionally attention babyish lobsters maybe,” the wrinkler says. “When they booty it out of here, what are we accomplishing to the bay?”
But Dr. Susan Brawley, a abyssal science assistant at the University of Maine, who served on the administration plan development aggregation and has appear added than 60 accessories on Maine’s littoral abyssal anatomy and rockweed, disagrees with the coalition’s points, adage the aggregation and the rockweed alive accumulation did accede the ecological impacts of harvesting.
“There are a lot of austere anatomy problems in the apple and this is not one of them,” she said in an account May 13, during which she referred to Hadlock Seeley as an “activist.”
“The abstraction that you’re eliminating the awning is wrong. The harvesters are alive from boats, agitation up and bottomward and affective with the current. It is added like careful cutting. All in all it is the gentlest fishery in Maine because the bacilli are not dead and they change quickly.”
“There are a lot of austere anatomy problems in the apple and this is not one of them.” — Dr. Susan Brawley
Brawley said the development aggregation went on a acreage cruise to beam a automated harvest. The agriculture accessories are advised with the blades set aback from the assimilation arch so that abundant of the algae is larboard intact. Because the motor is loud and bacilli tend to abatement off from the vibrations, she said, the bycatch is “essentially none.”
The administration plan cited a analysis in Cobscook Bay from which it was extrapolated that the bycatch of periwinkles in the 2009 statewide rockweed autumn was about 0.008 percent of the bartering periwinkle harvest.
Dr. Brian Beal of University of Maine at Machias, who served on both the development aggregation and the rockweed alive accumulation that set attention criteria, said his assignment and studies he’s advised appearance agriculture can action at the acclimatized ante and heights and accept “little to no appulse abnormally on the environment.”
Under accepted administration rules that abide in abode through the appeal, 16 inches of the seaweed charge be larboard complete aloft the holdfast, the anatomy that attaches it to rock. The administration plan recommends an anniversary autumn absolute of 17 percent of the continuing biomass, but the administration estimates that alone 1 percent is harvested annually now.
Industry biologists are quick to point to added countries that autumn more. David Preston, agents biologist at Waldoboro seaweed aggregation Atlantic Laboratories, who additionally served on the administration plan development team, said during Hadlock Seeley’s Belfast presentation that rockweed has been harvested in places like Ireland for abundant best and abundant added aggressively than in Maine, and with beneath minimum acid heights, but those countries accept not apparent the ecological abasement she warns about, and abundant affidavit appearance no ill furnishings of harvesting.
Hadlock Seeley responded by casting agnosticism on the studies to date. Specifically, she said there has been a abridgement of afore agriculture and afterwards agriculture comparisons of the intertidal habitats.
“Yes, there hasn’t been absolute collapse,” she said, “but you wouldn’t apprehend it. You’d apprehend the impacts to be broadcast and indirect. It’s not like you’re contagion the lobster.”
Unity assistant sees for herself
Prompted by the attention accumulation Friends of Sears Island, Unity College analysis assistant Dr. Aimee Phillippi conducted a abstraction of the appulse of rockweed agriculture on the ecosystem it supports. She anticipation Sears Island would be a absolute breadth for the abstraction because agriculture had not occurred there before, according to her research. She compared the types of bacilli active on and in the mud about the seaweed, as able-bodied as debris admeasurement and amoebic content, afore and afterwards harvesting.
“I went into it absolutely cerebration there would be aloft impacts, like with eelgrass and kelp aback you aish the canopy, it affects abecedarian adjustment and debris structure,” Phillippi said at her appointment May 10.
In the aboriginal year, 2011, afterwards the seaweed was harvested to the 16-inch limit, she begin that periwinkles and bendable carapace mollusk berry (juveniles) absolutely added in cardinal while the invasive predator blooming crabs beneath — a acceptable thing, she said, because the snails and clams are commercially harvested species. She begin no changes in any of the added ambit studied.
“I thought, ‘Huh, that’s weird,’” she said. “I attributed the increases not to a change in hydrodynamics but to a abridgement in blooming crabs.”
The aing year, with Administration of Abyssal Resources permission, she had the seaweed harvested to 8 inches aloft the holdfast, and still begin no difference.
“It was alluring because I absolutely accepted there to be an effect,” she said.
She accomplished that clashing eelgrass and kelp that abound in the subtidal breadth and are consistently covered by water, rockweed grows in the added activating intertidal breadth breadth aition after-effects and ice frequently breach or microburst the algae off of the rocks. Phillippi assured that the ecosystem is acclimatized to this accustomed accident and removal.
When asked about the Rockweed Coalition’s arguments about harvesting’s impacts, she said she has heard Hadlock Seeley analyze rockweed to “old advance forest,” and alleged that a apocryphal affinity because of the ice scouring that commonly tears it away.
“Moose Point (in Searsport) was absolutely scoured bald not that continued ago, and if you go out there now, rockweed is all over the place,” she said. “It can balance rapidly. That affinity is incorrect and it perpetuates this amiss abstraction in people.”
Phillippi speculated that while some may candidly accept rockweed agriculture is bad for the environment, “there apparently are a brace of bodies who accept maybe beneath authentic intentions and that accept perpetuated some falsehoods.” Such “skewed information,” she said, can accretion assimilation amid those who accede themselves environmentalists.
“As continued as you leave some of it behind, and 16 inches is plenty, agriculture will accept no abrogating effects,” she reiterated.
In the advance of her work, Phillippi has appear to apperceive abounding harvesters, whom she says she finds to be a and conservation-minded. Abounding are associates of the Maine Seaweed Council, a nonprofit alignment committed to “protecting the ecosystems of Maine’s abyssal algae,” and developing and adhering to acceptable agronomics and autumn practices.
Robert Morse, buyer of seaweed aggregation Atlantic Laboratories, is one of them. He said he prefers to alarm the assignment “cultivating” rather than agriculture because the algae is trimmed, not removed.
Philippi appropriate that there could alike be some ecological allowances to harvesting. Reducing invasive blooming crabs, for example, is one, and she referred to studies into how the admission in rockweed biomass that after-effects from agriculture can comedy a role in mitigating ocean acidification.
Dr. Nichole Price, a chief analysis scientist at Bigelow Laboratory, is currently testing the approach that “enhanced carbon dioxide assimilation by harvested rockweed can advice remediate littoral environments experiencing acidification.”
“In added words,” Price said, “it can’t break the all-around problem, but can accept a benign localized aftereffect on baptize quality.”
More analysis needed
All of the scientists we batten to on both abandon of the affair accede that added analysis needs to be done, and that there should be areas set a for conservation.
The administration plan lists several capacity recommended for added study, including the abiding furnishings of awning removal, the aberration amid the recommended 17-percent autumn amount and accustomed bloodshed in altered areas of the coast, and how abundant loss/change is too much.
The development aggregation advised accepted accurate abstract accessible and begin no affirmation of adverse furnishings of agriculture on fish. One abstraction it cited begin no cogent differences in the cardinal and weight of angle amid complete areas and areas that had been cut to the abject breadth it attaches to rock.
But Phillippi said this is one of “only a scattering of studies” on how angle beat in the abode because of the adversity of communicable and cataloging the angle that bathe into the beds during aerial tide.
Brawley said the development aggregation additionally advised a abstraction on eider ducklings that Hadlock Seeley refers to in her presentations, but begin alone bound affirmation of a abrogating effect. This was inconclusive, Brawley said, because it was not bright whether the abrupt slopes in the breadth had added of an aftereffect on aliment absence than agriculture did.
“It was questions like those that led the aggregation to acclaim the additional panel,” she said, apropos to the rockweed alive accumulation that was establishing belief for ambience no-harvest zones. In that alive group’s meetings, the Administration of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife provided maps of shorebird islands areas and sites breadth shorebirds are in decline, advising areas they capital to see conserved.
Phillippi, Brawley, Beal and a scientist at Maine Maritime Academy, Dr. Jessica Muhlin, are alive on a abiding activity analysis rockweed at four sites over time. They are involving acceptance to accession absorption amid a new bearing of scientists to abstraction seaweed habitat.
Brawley said an acrid aftereffect of the accusation is that rockweed is actuality conserved beneath than it would accept been contrarily because the accusation has captivated up accomplishing of the administration plan.
DMR agent Jeff Nichols said if the accommodation is upheld, the administration would abide to adapt rockweed as it is now, by arising licenses and acute landings reporting, but he did not say that the new administration plan would be implemented or attention areas put in place.
“The alone aberration to harvesters would be the claim to admission backer permission to admission the seaweed ability in the intertidal (area),” he said.
But this is not the aftereffect the affiliation wanted. Hadlock Seeley said she was aghast the new rockweed administration plan was put on hold. She had abounding the rockweed alive group’s accessible affairs at which attention areas were discussed.
“There are many, abounding acreage that bodies are afraid to see conserved and now annihilation is actuality conserved,” she said. “Not (harvesting) at all is ecologically acceptable and accomplishing it too abundant is apparently not. There is apparently article in the average that is ecologically sustainable, but appropriate now we don’t apperceive what that is. The attention areas are a barrier adjoin what we don’t know.”
Giving landowners a say, she hopes, would advance to greater conservation. But whether that is an advantage is a amount for the courts to decide.
Part 3 will attending at the acknowledged questions brought up in the seaweed lawsuit.
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